The City of Richmond recently had to issue an emergency demolition order on the building at 916-918 East Main Street. It seems to be a not particularly prominent building among the many very prominent buildings in Richmond’s downtown, so few images exist of it before it acquired its 1960s façade. It follows the usual configuration of downtown business blocks, in that the first floor housed retail establishments, the second floor often had professional offices, and the third floor was residential.
The construction of what would initially be known as the Potts Building precipitated one of the more colorful episodes in Richmond’s history — the celebrated Potts-Kersey Feud. Brought to light by Mary Louise Reynolds and Dr. Thomas Hamm at the Wayne County Historical Museum in 2009, the story involves Charles Potts, a druggist who owned the lot and house at what would become 916-918 Main, and a Dr. Charles Kersey, who rented and lived in that house. Potts wanted to build a three-story business block and told Dr. Kersey to vacate. Kersey claimed he had a valid lease and refused. Not be deterred, Potts hired a crew to begin demolition, and on the morning of May 16, 1881, they started tearing the roof off while Kersey and his wife slept. Dr. Kersey seems to have had quite a temper, and took out a pistol and fired some shots at the crew until apprehended by Marshal Louis Shofer. He was forced to move since the house had no roof, which only soured his view of Potts and his associates. Over the next couple of years the so-called Potts-Kersey Feud raged sporadically as Dr. Kersey attacked and battered Mr. Potts in August 1881 and in July 1882 shot him in the leg. The feud made amusing reading in the local newspapers. Meanwhile, the structure that started the hubbub was completed and occupied
From 1888 through 1895 both sides of the building were occupied the furniture store of Joseph Grimm.
The earliest image currently identified is the one below, which shows Main Street decorated for the 1909 Fall Festival. Frederick C. Friedgen’s clothing store occupied the eastern half (918).
Soon after Grimm’s moved out, C. T. Price opened his ice cream and confectionary in the 916 side.
From 1912 through 1933, 918 Main was the home of Ackerman’s Clothing Store
In 1939, local sports hero, Philip “Whitey” Kessler, moved his sporting goods store from North 9th Street to 916 Main. After Ackerman’s closed a string of other clothing stores occupied 918 Main. In the 1950s, 916 was Kessler’s and 918 was Livingston’s department store, as seen in this 1952 postcard.
In 1958, Whitey Kessler retired and sold his business to Cliff Dickman, who at some point bought the whole building. In 1963 it acquired the ‘new store front’ it kept until demolition.
In 1965, Dickman expanded Kessler’s to occupy both sides of the building. In 1990, he moved the business next door to the corner of 10th and Main to what had been a furniture store. Since then, the building has had several tenants, including Hungry House Health Products, but for many years it has been vacant and apparently neglected, forcing the city to have it removed.